Listen Up: Carolyn Walker Exposes “The Forgotten Ones” of Restaurant Branding

Our own Carolyn Walker sits down with CEO of Ovation (the #1 guest feedback platform for restaurants) Zack Oates on his podcast: Give an Ovation. Carolyn rips off the mask, Scooby-Doo-style, to expose “The Forgotten Ones” and then solves the mystery of why they’re so important for every restaurant’s brand. Jack then persuades Carolyn to regale him with tales of her wild early years in restaurant branding, and her unexpected journey from freelance consultant to CEO of Response. Finally, they give “Ovations” to two restaurant brands that are disrupting the industry in ways you won’t believe.

Listen to the podcast here.

Or scroll down for the summary. Bon appétit!


The Journey Through Brand Management and Innovation

Starting with a background in cooperative education at Northeastern University, Carolyn gained invaluable hands-on experience in the marketing and advertising industry. Her time at Darden Restaurants, specifically working on the Red Lobster brand, highlighted the significance of brand-driven marketing strategies. One of the standout moments was the successful bottomless crab bucket promotion, emphasizing the importance of unique and engaging marketing initiatives in the restaurant industry.

The pivotal shift in her career came with her transition to Sandella’s, a smaller startup concept where she encountered unforeseen challenges, leading to a transformative reimagining of the brand’s strategy. Leveraging innovative ideas like co-branded spaces and focusing on non-traditional locations, Sandella’s experienced substantial growth, particularly within college campuses.

Resilience, Innovation, and Empowering Staff

Carolyn emphasized the need for resilience, citing the company’s survival as a driving force behind their innovative approach. The discussion led to the significant role of empowering staff as stewards of the brand, ensuring that employees understand and embody the company’s mission, vision, and values to create unforgettable guest experiences.

Zack and Carolyn touched upon the critical concepts of resilience, innovation, and empowerment, drawing parallels between their respective industry experiences and the need for focus in finding solutions during challenging times. They highlighted the importance of employees’ connection to the brand and its impact on guest experiences, stressing the necessity of creating a ladder of loyalty within restaurant marketing.

Acknowledging Exemplary Brands in the Restaurant Industry

Carolyn acknowledged standout brands within the restaurant industry, such as Planta, recognized for its innovative approach to fine dining vegan cuisine. Additionally, First Watch was lauded for its distinctive brand, focusing on daytime cafe offerings and its adeptness in talent retention strategies, resonating with employees seeking a balanced work-life schedule. Lastly, Chipotle was commended for its adeptness in balancing brand and performance marketing and its resilience during a crisis, which led to continued brand loyalty and innovation.

Connecting with Carolyn and Response Marketing

For those seeking to connect with Carolyn or learn more about Response Marketing, contact us!